By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 1: Three people have been sentenced by the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court Tibetan in connection with the murder of Choje Akong Rinpoche, an influential Buddhist lama from the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and founder of Samyeling monastery in Scotland.
Two of the three convicted in the case; Thubten Kunsel and Tsering Paljor were charged with ‘intentional homicide’ and sentenced to death while the third man pleaded guilty of ‘covering up’ and was slapped three years’ imprisonment.
Akong Rinpoche was stabbed to death on Oct. 8, 2013 in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, for what many termed a ‘dispute over money’. Thubten Kunsel and Tsering Paljor reportedly killed the deceased, his nephew and his driver for refusing to pay over 400,000 US Dollars in wages for paintings Thubten had made for more than five years in Akong Rinpoche’s monastery in the UK. Samyeling, the monastery of Akong Rinpoche released a statement earlier that denied claims that the perpetrators were owed any money by Akong Rinpoche.
Akong Rinpoche, who fled Tibet in 1959, became a naturalized British citizen in the 70’s. He managed to maintain a cordial relationship with the Chinese government attested by his numerous visits to Tibet since 1992 and setting up humanitarian initiatives through his International Charity Rokpa that works for preserving Tibetan language, culture and religion on the plateau.
The Tibetan lama is credited for co-founding the first ever Tibetan Buddhist Centre along with Trungpa Rinpoche in Scotland.
The death of the Tibetan Lama was met with skepticism as to what truly transpired during the time with many exiles pointing to ‘foul play’ and lack of transparency in the proceedings. A report in August last year by Reuters quoted activist and writer Tsering Woeser as saying, "Perhaps it is the fear that this could spark something else. But now we don't know anything and we would very much like to know the truth."